NFIFF Opens Film Submissions

In September the Niagara Falls International Film Festival held their second annual gala event. And while the end credits have hardly finished rolling, it is time to get ready for next year and a new selection of films.

With that the NFIFF has opened the canister and is now accepting submissions for the third annual Film Festival next September.

The NFIFF is looking to bring the best in entertainment and to celebrate the iconic region to not only recognize the region, but to off videofiles the best in film.

Noting that the Festival has grown since it first year, NFIFF Founder and President Bill Cowell said that there are already some exciting events in the planning stages for next year.

Since its inception, the NFIFF has presented four Stars for the upcoming Walk of Fame to be installed on Old Falls Street, presented the Icon of Industry Award to Sam Fuller (accepted by his widow and daughter), presented the Legacy Award to Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr who was in attendance, a presentation of the Humanitarian Award to Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia in honour of his military service and brought some of the top names in the industry to Niagara Falls.

The NFIFF also presents several awards for the Best of the Best of its film entries including Best Narrative Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature Film, the People’s Choice Feature Film Award (an audience voted award), Best Short Narrative Film, Best Short Documentary, Rising Talent Award, Best Cinematography, Best Actor and Actress Awards, Most Promising Filmmaker, Humanitarian Award, Legacy Award, and Lifetime Achievement Award.

Filmmakers and directors interested in submitting films for the 2020 NFIFF can go to: https://filmfreeway.com/NiagaraFallsInternationalFilmFestival

Submissions for the NFIFF open January 15 with an early bird deadline on February 15, and end on March 15. There is a late entry deadline of April 15 and an extended deadline of May 15. The final date for entries is June 15.

Submissions are available in two categories – feature films (45 minutes or longer) and short film (less than 45 minutes). While the NFIFF prefers debut submissions, previously screened films are permitted. The film’s submitter must own the rights to the film and not violate any copyrights. If selected for submission, screening copies of the film must be presented for screening in a timely manner.

The 2020 NFIFF will be held September 9-12.

NFL Sets Playoff Schedule

The regular season is over and all 256 games have been played. Now it is time for the postseason on the way to the biggest game of the season – The Super Bowl!

But first the 12 remaining teams must battle it out for the right to travel to Miami on February 2.

All 30 teams played games on the final Sunday of the season. As each team won…or lost…what was a fluid playoff picture began to form and take shape.

It came down to the final game of the season between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks before the playoffs were set.

Division leaders the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers have this weekend off as the Wild Card games begin. The Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers also have the weekend off.

The 2019/20 playoff season schedule:
Jan 4 – the Buffalo Bills travel to Texas to take on the Houston Texans with a 4:35pm EST start.
Jan 4 – the Tennessee Titans travel to Massachusetts to face the New England Patriots with an 8:15pm EST start.

Jan 5 – the Minnesota Vikings travel to New Orleans to face the New Orleans Saints with a 1:05pm EST start.
Jan 5 – the Seattle Seahawks travel to Philadelphia to take on the Philadelphia Eagles with a 4:40pm EST start.

Jan 11 – with home field advantage, the San Francisco 49ers play a team yet to be determined at 4:35pm EST.
Jan 11 – with home field advantage, the Balitmore Ravens play a team yet to be determined at 8:15pm EST.

Jan 12 – with home field advantage, the Kansas City Chiefs play a team yet to be determined at 3:05pm EST.
Jan 12 – with home field advantage, the Green Bay Packers play a team yet to be determined at 6:40pm EST.

On January 19 the AFC Championship game will begin at 3:05pm and the NFC Championship game will begin at 6:40pm.

Super Bowl LIV will take place on February 2 with a 6:30pm kick off. Latin music stars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will entertain fans during half time.

MLB Changes Drug Policy

The list of substances banned by Major League Baseball is a long and complicated one spanning from illegal drugs to over the counter products designed to aid an athlete to enhance their performance.

But beginning with the 2020 MLB season, there will be one less substance on the banned list – cannabis.

MLB has a strict no-drug policy that will see a player banned from play for 50 games upon the first offense and increases substantially for the second offense and a banishment from the game for the third offense.

In the new season player drug tests will include testing for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine, and synthetic THC; but any player who tests positive for natural cannabinoids will not be punished under the banned substance policy.

Players who test positive for natural cannabinoids will treated the same as a player with alcohol related issues.

MLB deputy chief Dan Halem noted that, “the USA opioid epidemic is a concern,” and in future any player who tests positive for legally obtainable narcotics will be referred for treatment over punishment.

Halem said that the new policy is designed to raise public awareness and to focus on the, “principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education – will help protect the health and safety of our players.”

While cannabis has been decriminalized in many states and is even legal in a few, opioid addiction has reached the level of a national crisis.

The change comes in the wake of the death of Tyler Skaggs – a 27 year old pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels – who was found dead in his Texas hotel room July 1, 2019. It was determined that Skaggs had oxycodone, fentanyl and alcohol in his system at the time of his death.

The new drug policy applies to all MLB players – both Major and Minor Leagues.

Motley Crue, Poison, Def Leppard, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Country music fans are used to seeing several of their idols share the stage with each other along with a few new comers during a tour. But rock fans have long seen big music stars tour solo or with just one opening act, usually an up and coming band.

But next summer when the massive “stadium tours” begin, hard rock fans are going to get a full load of rock and roll in one show.

Motley Crue and Poison will be joined by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Def Leppard and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts for a big summer Stadium Tour beginning in June.

Originally salted for a 20 stop U.S. tour, after over 700,000 tickets were sold in the first couple of days – including the fastest sellout of Miller Park in the history of the venue -, more dates have been added to the tour.

When they made their “Farewell Tour”, members of Motley Crue signed an agreement that they would not “come out of retirement” to tour again. But the rowdy rockers have torn up the agreement and are getting ready to pack up the gear and hit the road again.

The Stadium Tour dates:
June 21 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX
June 23 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO
June 25 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO
June 27 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN
June 29 at Missan Stadium in Nashville, TN
July 2 at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, OH
July 3 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH
July 7 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL
July 9 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL
July 11 at Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC
July 14 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX
July 15 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX
July 19 at Oracle Park in San Francisco, CA
July 23 at Petco Park in San Diego, CA
July 25 at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix, AZ
Aug 9 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, GA
Aug 11 at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, PA
Aug 13 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY (Buffalo)
Aug 15 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA
Aug 16 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA
Aug 18 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI
Aug 20 at Comerica Park in Detroit, MI
Aug 22 at Nationals Park in Washington, DC
Aug 23 at Citi Field in Flushing, NY (New York City)
Aug 25 at Fenway Park in Boston, MA
Aug 28 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL
Aug 30 at Coors Field in Denver, CO
Sept 2 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, WA
Sept 5 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, CA

Who Has the Most Race Starts???

Unlike many professional sports, race car drivers can have some very long careers. As a result, drivers can rack up a pretty long list of races; especially when they drive in more than one of the three NASCAR series.

Racers love to race and some drivers will get behind the wheel every chance they get.

This past year, current NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch set a record for the most wins in the Xfinity Series and has piled up an impressive number of race starts…and wins.

But in the 70 year history of NASCAR who has driven in the most races?

Compiled by NASCAR.com; below is a list of the top 25 drivers with the most starts in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, the Xfinity Series, and the NASCAR Cup Series combined.

But many drivers also run in other racing series like Sprint Car and Outlaws; those starts are not included in the NASCAR totals.

Holding down position number 25 is Mike Wallace with 806 total starts.

When Dale Earnhardt lost his life on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001, he had made 812 race starts and held the record for the most wins on the track in Daytona.

Sterling Marlin has the number 23 position with 825 race starts.

Greg Biffle has spot number 22 with 836 starts when he retired last year.

Also retiring last year, Elliott Sadler has the number 21 spot with 855 race starts.

Holding down the number 20 spot, the king of the Most Popular Driver vote, Awesome Bill from Dawsonville – Bill Elliott – had 874 NASCAR starts when he retired.

Entering the “modern era” of drivers, Jeff Gordon has spot number 20 with 878 race starts. Currently a television broadcaster, Gordon is working on matching his sportscasting starts with his race starts.

Also a television sportscaster, Kyle Petty has the number 18 spot with 885 race starts.

Still driving when most men his age had retired, Dave Marcis has spot number 17 with 888 race starts.

The second of three racing Wallace brothers, Kenny – also known as Herman – Wallace takes spot number 16 with 904 race starts.

Taking spot number 15 is Ricky Rudd with 909 starts.

And number 14 is held down by a driver who just retired from his second career as a sportscaster, Darrell Waltrip who had 921 race starts when he retired.

Number 13 is taken by Bobby Labonte with 942 race starts; many of which were with brother Terry in the race.

Another recently retired drivers has the number 12 spot with Matt Kenseth and 953 starts.

Kenny Schrader holds down the number eleven spot with 984 race starts, just a few short of the 1,000 mark.

Breaking into the top 10 is another driver turned sportscaster with Dale Jarrett and 997 race starts.

Often referred to as The Mayor and a major advocate for driver safety, Jeff Burton breaks the 1,000 mark with 1,005 in ninth place.

Bobby’s big brother Terry Labonte has the number eight spot with 1,017 race stars.

Still running the occasional race and in his seventies, Morgan Shepherd has made 1,027 race starts in his long racing career of over 50 years.

While he has set a number of racing records, Kyle Busch holds down the number six spot with 1,036 starts and counting. The current NASCAR champion is the first full time driver still racing to make the list and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

While he is several years younger than his big brother, Michael Waltrip holds down the number five spot with 1,072 race starts, some of which were in his own team’s race car.

A man who just loved to race, Mark Martin has the number four spot with 1,143 race starts.

Another current full time driver, Kevin Harvick has the number three spot with 1,151 race starts.

The number two spot is held by The King himself and the man who has won the most NASCAR Cup races at 200. Richard Petty started 1,182 races before he retired.

And the driver to sit at the top of the list for the most race starts is Joe Nemechek who continues to run a number of races each season. During the 2019 racing season, Joe and song John Hunter set the record for a father and son starting all three races together during a race weekend.

Radio Shock Jock Don Imus Dies

Radio shock jock Don Imus died December 27 in College Station, Texas as a result of lung disease at the age of 79. He was surrounded by family at the time of his death.

Imus was best known for his national radio show where he was known for speaking his mind and not caring whom he hurt or bullied. Never one to miss a chance to stir up the pot, Imus referred to himself as, “ an all-inclusive offender”.

It was one such remark that cost Imus his job and his fame when he referred to the Rutgers female basketball team as a bunch of “nappy-headed ho’s.”

Despite numerous apologies for his unacceptable behaviour, Imus never fully recovered from his mistake. Prior to his acidic rants, Time magazine had named Imus one of the most 25 influential Americans.

However, he was not always filled with nasty remarks and slurs; away from the microphone, Imus was a philanthropist who raised millions of dollars for organizations including the CJ Foundation for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and ran a ranch in New Mexico for children with terminal illnesses. The pediatric medical center at the Hackensack University Medical Center bears his name.

He was born John Donald Imus Jr on July 23, 1940 in Riverside, California, the oldest of two boys. Before becoming a radio personality at age 28, Imus served in the United States Marines, was a freight train brakeman, and a uranium miner.

The former “Disc Jockey of the Year” worked at a number of radio stations around the country where he would cold call people waking them up to ask outrageous questions or to become the radio evangelist the Reverend Billy Sol Hargis.

His propensity for vodka and later cocaine cost him a job more than once.

After a stint in rehab, Imus returned to the microphone and earned himself a spot in the Radio Hall of Fame. By the time Imus retired, he had been in the radio business nearly 50 years.

Imus is survived by his second wife Deidre and children; Nadine, Ashley, Elizabeth, Toni, Wyatt, and Zachary.

 

feature photo credit: By Michael Rhys – https://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelrhys/40428909, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1893800

‘Charlie Brown’ Producer Lee Mendelson Dies

Christmas 2019 is not only the last Christmas season of the decade but it has also been a season filled with loss.

On December 25, “Peanuts” animated series producer Lee Mendelson died at his Hillsborough, California home as a result of congestive heart failure due to lung cancer. He was 86 at the time of his death.

In 1965 a new animated Christmas special debuted with a lovable collection of comic strip characters brought to life thanks to the work of cartoonist Charles Schultz, director Bill Melendez, composer Vince Guaraldi, and producer Lee Mendelson. Mendelson would go on to produce many more of the Peanuts animated specials and earn himself numerous Emmy Awards in the process.

It was Mendelson who put words to the classic Christmas song “Christmas Time is Here” sung by Linus and the gang in the show “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Mendelson said that he created the lyrics for the song in about 15 minutes and wrote them on the back of en envelope.

A Charlie Brown Christmas” kicked off more than a legacy of animated programs loved by adults and children alike, the show went on to win an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award. The program was the first time children were used to portray the roles of cartoon children; including at one time or another his own children.

But Charlie Brown and his friends were not the only comic strip characters that Mendelson brought to life; he brought Garfield the big orange tabby to life; as well as, Cathy.

Lee Maurice Mendelson was born on March 24, 1933 in San Francisco, California. After graduating from Stanford University in 1954, he served time in the United States Air Force and worked in his father’s fruit and vegetable company before beginning his work in television.

Mendelson’s first solo project out of his own production company was a documentary on San Francisco Giants legend Willie Mays in 1963. He went on to produce documentaries on Paul Newman, Gene Kelly, Joanne Woodward, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Flip Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, Muhammad Ali and Carl Reiner.

Mendelson himself even voiced a character in one of the 50 Peanuts productions when in an uncredited role he voiced a hat seller in “A Charlie Brown Celebration”.

Along with “Christmas Time is Here”; Mendelson has penned music for the short “Bottle Rocket” and “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story”.

Besides the 50 Peanuts specials and films; Mendelson has produced numerous other projects including “The Fabulous Shorts”, “The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant”, “Children’s Letters to God”, “It Couldn’t Be Done”, “Hot Dog”, “The Unexplained”, “Babar Comes to America”, “From Yellowstone to Tomorrow”, “Travels with Flip”, “The Fantastic Funnies”, “Here Comes Garfield”, “Garfield on the Town”, “The Romance of Betty Boop”, “Cathy”, “Cathy’s Last Resort”, “Cathy’s Valentine”, “Mother Goose and Grimm”, and 64 episodes of “Garfield and Friends”.

Mendelson is survived by his second wife Ploenta; children Lynda, Glenn, Jason, and Sean; stepson Ken; and eight grandchildren.

 

feature photo credit: By Lam1075 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64635774

George Michael’s Sister Dies on Anniversary of Death

Three years ago British pop icon George Michael shocked the world with the news of his death. In a lightening strikes twice in the same spot event, Michael’s sister Melanie has died exactly three years later.

Melanie Panayiotou was found in her North London home by police after sister Yioda found the body. At this time the 55 year old’s death is not being considered as suspicious.

While there are no details on how Melanie died, she had been ill and was in the hospital earlier in the day.

The family has asked for privacy at this time as they once again spend the holiday season in mourning.

Melanie was a hairdresser and served as her brother’s personal hairdresser during his days with Wham and as a solo artist.

Melanie is also predeceased by mother Lesley who died in 1997. George Michael was buried next to their mother and Melanie is expected to join them. Melanie is survived by her sister Yioda and father Kyriacos (also known as Jack).

 

Broadway Legend Jerry Herman Dies

Award winning Broadway composer Jerry Herman died December 26, 2019 in Miami at the age of 88.

The multi award winning star earned two Grammy Awards for the original cast recordings of “Mame” and “La Cage aux Folles”. The cause of death is being listed as pulmonary complications.

Along with his two Grammy Awards, Herman has more than filled his trophy case with three Tony Awards plus a special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award, two Drama Desk Awards, a Theatre World Special Award, the Johnny Mercer Award, the Richard Rodgers Award, the Oscar Hammerstein Award, and the Frederick Lowe Award. He is also a Kennedy Center Honor and a member of the Songwriters and Theatre Halls of Fame.

Over the years Herman worked with numerous Broadway actors and stars including Angela Lansbury, Carol Channing, Charles Nelson Reilly, Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, Martha Raye, Cab Calloway, Ethel Merman, Pearly Bailey, and Bernadette Peters.

Of Russian Jewish descent, Gerald Herman was born July 10, 1931 in New York City to a musical home. He was raised in Jersery City and spent many summers in the “Borscht Belt” of the Catskills where his parents worked as musicians. He began his musical journey early learning to play the piano and later directed the theatrical productions of the Stissing Lake Camp. It is while spending time at the Camp that a young Jerry began writing music.

Herman’s first New York production was an Off-Broadway run of “Feel Wonderful” which was mostly written while he was in college. The show ran for 48 performances.

His first Broadway show was “Milk and Honey” which ran for over 500 performances and earned Herman his first Tony Award nomination.

His second Broadway hit is not only still being performed, it won a record setting 10 Tony Awards after Carol Channing played the lead role of Dolly in “Hello, Dolly”.

His final production ran for over four years on the Broadway stage and somewhat mirrored the life of its creator with the award winning “La Cage aux Folles”.

Herman himself appeared on Broadway in 2004 in “An Evening with Jerry Herman” and after writing a few songs for the television movie “Mrs. Santa Claus”, Herman himself had an uncredited role in the film as the piano player.

Many of Herman’s Broadway productions have been turned into hit movies including “Hello, Dolly” with Barbra Streisand and “La Cage aux Folles” with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.

Herman is survived by his long time partner Terry Marler and goddaughters.

Jerry Herman Musicals and Productions:
“Milk and Honey”
“Hello Dolly”
“Mame”
Dear World”
“Mack & Mabel”
“The Grand Tour”
La Cage aux Folles”
“Jerry’s Girls”
“Showtune”
“Parade”
“Mrs Santa Claus”
“A Day in Hollywood/ A Night in the Ukraine”
“Miss Spectacular”

 

feature photo credit: By U.S. federal government – Kennedy Center Honorees at The White House 2010, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12486882

NFL Reveals 2020 Pro Bowl Roster

For the first time in his career, Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady has failed to make the roster of the annual Pro Bowl team. In fact, only three members of the Patriots team were voted into the Pro Bowl.

But in the fan voted event, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson led the entire NFL in votes by 164,000 with 704,699. Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey rounded out the top five vote getters.

The Ravens led the way in players making it to the Pro Bowl with a total of 12 players. The next closest team was the New Orleans Saints with seven.

The young football phenom now holds the record for single season rushing and leads the NFL in passing touchdowns with 33.

Leading the teams as Legends Captains for the 2020 Pro Bowl are Hall of Famers Terrell Davis, Darrell Green, and Bruce Smith; along with Michael Vick despite some stiff protest against the former quarterback being a part of the game.

The NFL has returned to the traditional AFC vs. NFC matchup for the game which has moved from Hawaii to Orlando, Florida.

Terrell Davis will be the offensive and Bruce Smith will be the defensive Legends Captains for the AFC; while Michael Vick will be the offensive and Darrell Green will be the defensive Legends Captains for the NFC.

The 2020 Pro Bowl will be held on January 26 – one week before the Super Bowl – at 3pm. Tickets to the game begin at $45 and are available on the NFL site at nfl.com.

Here is who the fans chose to send to the Pro Bowl:
AFC:
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins
Los Angeles Charges wide receiver Keenan Allen
Cleveland Bronws wide receiver Jarvis Landry
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill
Baltimore Ravens tackle Ronnie Stanley
Houston Texans tackle Laremy Tunsil
Oakland Raiders tackle Trent Brown
Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda
Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson
Pittsburgh Steelers guard David DeCastro
Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey
Oakland Raiders center Rodney Hudson
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews
Baltimore Ravens fullback Patrick Ricard
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram
Balitmore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson
Kansas City Chief quarterback Patrick Mahomes
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson
Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell
Pittsburgh Steelers interior lineman Cameron Heyward
Kansas City Chiefs interior lineman Chris Jones
Cincinnati Bengals interior lineman Geno Atkins
Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt
Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Mat Judon
Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Darius Leonard
New England Patriots inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore
Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey
Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
Balitmore Ravens free safety Earl Thomas
New York Jets strong safety Jamal Adams
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker
Baltimore Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox
Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern
Kansas City Chiefs return specialist Mecole Hardman
New England Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater

 

NFC:
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin
Green Bay Packers tackle David Bakhtiari
Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith
New Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead
Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin
Philadelphia Eagles guard Brandon Brooks
Washington Redskins guard Brandon Scherff
Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce
Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott
San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter
Los Angeles Rams interior lineman Aaron Donald
Philadelphia Eagles interior lineman Fletcher Cox
Atlanta Falcons interior lineman Grady Jarrett
Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones
Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalik Mack
Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett
Seattle Seahawks inside linebacker Bobby Wagner
Carolina Panthers inside linebacker Luke Kuechly
New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman
Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey
Arizona Cardinals free safety Budda Baker
Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson
Minnesota Vikings strong safety Harrison Smith
New Orleans Saints kicker Will Lutz
Philadelphia Eagles long snapper Rick Lovato
Washington Redskins punter Tress Way
New Orleans Saints return specialist Deonte Harris
Chicago Bears special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson

Players who are currently on the roster may change depending on injury status and whether or not they will be a part of the Super Bowl in Miami on February 2.

Football Hall Names Centennial Class Finalists

As a part of the centennial celebration of professional football in the United States, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will name a special Centennial Class to The Hall.

A special “Blue-Ribbon Panel” will determine which 15 players, coaches, and contributors will be selected out of the more than 300 who were originally considered.

The panel will meet early in January to determine which of the finalists will be named to the “Centennial Slate”.

The finalists are:
St. Louis Cardinals coach Don Coryell
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher
Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and Seattle Seahawks coach Tom Flores
Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren
Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson
Chicago Cardinals, Detroit Lions, and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Buddy Parker
Denver Broncos, New York Giants, and Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves
Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, and Kansas City Chief coach Dick Vermeil
Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams
Canton Bulldogs owner Ralph Hay
Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots Scout, General Manager, and Executive Frank “Bucko” Kilroy
National Football League Official and Administrator Art McNally
Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell
Dallas Cowboys Founder and owner Clint Murchison
NFL Films Administrator and President Steve Sabol
Elias Sports Bureau Owner and President Seymour Siwoff
former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue
Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, and NFL contributor and general manager George Young
Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch
Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Harold Carmichael
Chicago Bears tackle Jim Covert
Sam Framcisco 49ers, Los Angeles Raiders, and Minnesota Vikings running back Roger Craig
Green Bay Packers safety Bobby Dillon
Milwaukee Badgers and Green Bay Packers (all around) end LeVern Dilweg
Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions and Brooklyn Dodgers guard, linebacker, and center Ox Emerson
Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar
Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris
New York Jest and Los Angeles Rams tackle Winston Hill
Green Bay Packers halfback and defenisive back Cecil Isbell
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras
Green Bay Packers and New York Yankees halfback Verne Lewellen
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Tommy Nobis
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Donnie Shell
Milwaukee Badgers, Rock Island Independents, and Chicago Cardinals tackle Duke Slater
Cleveland Brown end Mac Speedie
Chicago Bears defensive end and linebacker Ed Sprinkle
Phil-Pitt and Philadelphia Eagles offensive and defensive tackle and guard Al Wistert

The modern era players who are eligible will be revealed in January. Those players will also include the finalists for enshrinement in the 2020 class of the Hall of Fame.

Falling in Reverse

Rockers Falling in Reverse have something to celebrate… a gold album. And in celebration of their debut album going gold, they are going out on a tour.

The band will be playing “The Drug in Me” in full; as well as, fan favourites on the tour.

An album is certified gold by the RIAA – Recording Industry Association of America – when it reaches 500,000 copies sold.

Escape The Fate and The Word Alive will be joining Falling in Reverse on the tour.

Falling in Reverse tour dates:
Feb 8 at The Aztec in San Antonio, TX
Feb 10 at the House of Blues in New Orleans, LA
Feb 11 at Jannus Live in St. Petersberg, FL
Feb 12 at Revolution Live in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Feb 14 at The National in Richmond, VA
Feb 15 at the Webster Hall in New York City, NY
Feb 16 at Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT
Feb 18 at the House of Blues in Cleveland, OH
Feb 19 at Intersection in Grand Rapids, MI
Feb 21 at The Mercury Ballroom in Louisville, KY
Feb 22 at The Sylvee in Madison, WI
Feb 23 at The Pageant in St. Louis, MO
Feb 24 at The Truman in Kansas City, MO
Feb 25 at Sunshine Studios Livei n Colorado Springs, CO
Feb 28 at the Showbox SODO in Seattle, WA
Feb 29 at the Roseland Ballroom in Portland, OR
March 1 at The Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, BC
March 3 at Ace of Spades in Sacramento, CA

Whitesnake

Hard rockers Whitesnake have planned a tour for this spring and even before they have packed their bags, the band has added more dates to the tour.

The tour is in support of their newest album “Flesh & Blood” which has reached the top 10 in several countries in Europe.

Whitesnake tour dates:
Feb 19 at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia
Feb 22 at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia
Feb 24 at the Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Australia
Feb 27 at the Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand
March 1 at the JogjaRockarta Festival in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
March 4 at the Rock Fest in For Canning Park, Singapore
March 9 at the Civic Hall in Fukuoka, Japan
March 10 at the Civic Hall in Okayama, Japan
March 15 at the Shimin Hall in Sapporo, Japan
March 17 at the International Forum in Tokyo, Japan
March 19 at the Grand Cube in Osaka, Japan
March 20 at the Cultural Center in Nagoya Kariya, Japan
April 29 at the Stodola, Poland
May 1 at the Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania
May 4 at the Saku Arena in Tallinn, Estonia
May 10 at the Spektrum in Oslo, Norway
May 14 at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, Denmark
May 17 at the Zenith in Munchen, Germany
May 19 at the Rondo Arena in Brno, Czech Republic
May 21 at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin, Germany
May 22 at the Sporthalle in Hamburg, Germany
May 24 at the Warsteiner Music Hall in Dortmund, Germany
May 26 at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart, Germany
May 27 at the Samsung Hall in Zurich, Switzerland
May 31 at The O2 Arena in London, UK
June 1 at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, UK
June 3 at the Arena in Birmingham, UK
June 4 at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, UK
June 6 at the Utilita Arena in Newcastle, UK
June 8 at the Arena in Manchester, UK

Overkill

The rock band Overkill has planned a tour around the United States early next year. In a tour they are calling “Wings Over USA”, the band is bringing Exhorder and Hydraform along as opening acts.

Overkill frontman Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth is calling the the tour a “sledgehammer thrash fest.”

Wings Over USA tour dates:
Feb. 26 at the House of Blues in Anaheim, CA
Feb 27 at Slims in San Francisco, CA
Feb 28 at the House of Blues in Las Vegas, NV
Feb 29 at the House of Blues in San Diego, CA
March 1 at the Crecent Ballroom in Phoenix, AZ
March 2 at the Sunshine Theater in Albuquerque, NM
March 4 at the Aztec in San Antonio, TX
March 5 at the House of Rock in Corpus Christi, TX
March 6 at the Warehouse in Houston, TX
March 7 at the Gas Monkey in Dallas, TX
March 8 at the House of Blues in New Orleans, LA
March 9 at The Ritz in Tampa, FL
March 10 at the House of Blues in Orlando, FL
March 11 at the Buckhead in Atlanta, GA
March 12 at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC
March 13 at The Fillmore in Silver Springs, MD
March 14 at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ

Airbourne

Australian hard rockers Airbourne are kicking off the new decade with a world tour that includes several festival dates in the spring.

The tour is to support their new album “Boneshaker”.

Band members are very excited to be hitting the road and sharing some new music.

Jan 4 at the Summernats in Lyneham, Australia
Feb 8 at the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia
Feb 11 at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Hindmarsh, Australia
Feb 14 at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia
Feb 15 at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia
Feb 18 at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Boondall, Australia
Feb 20 at The Trusts Arena in Auckland, New Zealand
Feb 22 at the Horncastle Arena in Christchurch, New Zealand
April 30 at the Gramercy Thetre in New York City, NY
May 1 at the Underground Arts in Philadelphia, PA
May 2 at the Rock & Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C.
May 3 at the Epicenter Festival in Concord, NC
May 6 at the Bronze Peacock-House of Blues in Houston, TX
May 7 at the Three Links Deep Ellum in Dallas, TX
May 9 at the Vinyl Music Hall in Pensacola, FL
May 10 at Welcome to Rockville in Daytona Beach, FL
May 11 at The Masquerade in Atlanta, GA
May 12 at The Basement East in Nashville, TN
May 14 at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago, IL
May 16 at the Sonic Temple Music Festival in Columbus, OH
May 18 at the Rec Room in Buffalo, NY
May 19 at the London Music Hall in London, Ontario
May 20 at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, ON
May 22 at the Imperial Bell in Quebec City, QC
May 23 at the Corona Theatre in Montreal, QC
June 5 at the Rock im Park in Nuremberg, Germany
June 5 at Rock am Ring in Nurburg, Germany
June 9 at Burgerweide in Bremen, Germany
June 10 at the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne, Germany
June 12 at the Download Festival in Castle Donington, UK
June 13 at Nova Rock in Kleylehof, Austria
June 15 at the Belsonic in Belfast, UK
June 18 at the Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel, Belgium
June 19 at Rock the Ring in Hinwil, Switzerland
June 20 at the Hellfest Open Air Festival in Clisson, France
June 23 at the Waldbuhne in Berlin, Germany
June 26 at Tons of Rock in Oslo, Norway
June 27 at Ullevi in Gothenburg, Sweden
June 30 at the Ledovyy Dvorets in St. Petersberg, Russia
July 2 at the Futbol’nyy Manezh Dinamo in Moskva, Russia
July 7 at the Sinobo Stadium in Hlavni Mesto Praha, Czech Republic
July 9 at Evenemententerrein in Asten, Netherlands
July 11 at Paris la Defense Arena in Nanterre, France
July 16 at the Stadttheater Wiener Neustadt in Wiener Neustadt, Austria
July 18 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Stuttgart, Germany
July 20 at the Arena Parco Nord in Bologna, Italy
July 23 at Estadio Nacional in Cruz Quebrada, Portugal
July 25 at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona, Spain
July 27 at the Basinfirefest in Spalene Porici, Czech Republic
July 30 at Tsunami Xixon in Gijon, Spain

Terry Fator Brings the Laughs to Niagara

The Events Center in the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino was merry and bright on December 21 when Las Vegas showman Terry Fator brought his menagerie of characters to Niagara Falls for a holiday themed show.

DJ Ben Harris got the crowd warmed up with some rocking tunes before the show.

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Playing before a full house Fator opened the show with a little song and dance.

Terry Fator broke onto the national scene in 2007 when he appeared on the reality competition show “America’s Got Talent”. A 20 year showbiz veteran performing in schools and other events, Fator said that his original plan was to appear on a couple of shows so he could make a little more money. But fate had other plans and Fator won the competition and has since opened a show in Las Vegas that has become one of the most popular performances on the Strip.

Kicking off the puppet parade was his AGT cohort Winston the Impersonating Turtle who regaled the crowd with stories of his experiences in Hollywood since relocating there to become a movie star.

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Fator’s puppet family includes nearly three dozen characters that feature some 200 impersonations. During the December 21 performance, the show included The Bee Gees, Ethel Merman, Cher, Michael Jackson, Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley, Kermit the Frog, Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Frank Sinatra.

Next came Country music artist Walter T. Airdale to regale the crowd with stories of his many wives.

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The Beatle talked…and sang…about the many songs he helped Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon write for The Beatles. The Beatle also performed a duet with Michael Jackson.

Apollo Theater star Julius sang Nat King Cole and Stevie Wonder songs. Julius also made the Puppet Service Announcement that it is now a federal law that all cups of cocoa must include marshmallows.

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Next up was the worlds greatest Elvis impersonator Maynard Thompkins but he didn’t want to sing an Elvis song. Maynard eventually did sing an Aaron Neville song and announced to the crowd that he is a proud maniquin American who loves his tree heritage.

Everybody’s got one, that annoying neighbour. Terry’s most annoying neighbour Duggie Scott Walker stopped by to tell everyone about the newest holiday Juana – a time of prolific baking where everyone wishes each other Merry Juana…or just Hiiiiiiiiiiiii. On Juana people waits for Willie to bring the baggies.

Winston returns to the stage to perform a Kermit / Louis Armstrong duet with Fator and to perform the song that won them AGT – Roy Orbison with “Crying”.

After recognizing the veterans, active military, and first responders; Fator spoke on his foundation. The Terry Fator Foundation which assists children and veterans. Fator autographed the shirt he was wearing for the performance and auctioned it off to benefit the TFF. Proceeds from sales at the merchandise table also went to the Foundation.

For a little fun, Fator had the ladies volunteer their husbands to be a human puppet. Claudia volunteered her husband Jim. Jim joined Terry on stage to have Fator do a little talking for him.

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After a performance of “Baby,It’s Cold Outside” by Dolly Parton and Rod Stewart, Old Blues Eyes himself Frank Sinatra stopped by.

And after a return visit from Maynard, Fator had a little question and answer session with the audience.

Winston returned to the stage for one final performance to close out the show with an Italian rendition of “The Prayer”.

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It was a night of fun and laughs with Terry Fator and his parade of puppets at Seneca Niagara with a show worth remembering.

MLB May Test Computerized Umpire

Fans love to yell at them. Players and caches occasionally argue with them. But the human umpire is as much a part of the game of baseball as the rubber bases and the baseball itself.

Unfortunately, everything must end…and so too may the umpires of baseball.

As a part of a five year labour deal, the Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed to work with Major League Baseball on developing automated umpire to call the balls and strikes.

While the strike zone is determined in the rules, – from a player’s knees to the lettering on the chest -, every umpire has his own personal variation on that rule. Players seldom have issues with the strike zone, only when an umpire is not consistent with his calls.

While still a few years away from being used in the Major Leagues; the Independent Atlantic League used an automated system for its All Star game on July 10, 2019. Home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere was equipped with an earpiece attached to the iPhone in his pocket. DeBrauwere would relay the call that had been determined by the TrackMan computer system that used doppler radar to determine the calls.

The Atlantic League experimented with the TrackMan in the second half of the season; as did the Arizona Fall League at Salt River Fields.

Like all players and umpires, the TrackMan computerized umpire will have to start in single A baseball and may be installed for usage in the Florida State League next season.

If the experiment is successful, then MLB may bring the TrackMan umpire up to Triple A in the 2021 season.

It is not yet known whether the MLB Players Association will have to approve the computerized umpire in order for it to become a part of the game.

The TrackMan would be used on ball and strike calls only; the human umpires would still be involved for checked swings, pass balls, wild pitches, and out calls. The video replay review for safe-out calls will continue.

While the reviews of the TrackMan are mixed, there are those who see the computerized umpire as a good thing; for major league third baseman Mike Schmidt said, “it would change the game for the good. It would continue the effort to eliminate human deficiency. We have replay everywhere else in the game. Like it or not, replay gets the call right.”

Atlantic League players who were involved in its usage liked the corner of the plate calls but noted that it struggled when faced with breaking pitches.

World Series winning Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch is not as enthusiastic about the idea saying, “I think it’s a little naive to think that simply letting computers generate strike or ball. It’s incredibly naive to think that there’s not going to be pitfalls in that scenario, as well.”

The new contract with the umpires also includes increased compensation and retirement benefits and provisions for any umpire who wishes to retire early.

 

 

Longest Musical Closing

While musicals come and go on Broadway, “Phantom of the Opera” lives on. The award winning hit musical made its debut in 1988, but even at 31 straight years of performances, the show falls short of the record for the longest running musical in the country.

That distinction belongs to a small local San Francisco production that made its stage devut in 1974.

“Beach Blanket Babylon” has turned a six week engagement into a 45 year run. But on New Year’s Eve – January 31 – the show will drop the curtain for the final time.

Saying that she wanted the show to end on a hight note, producer Jo Schuman Silver thinks that now is the right time for the campy show that spoofs popular culture and politics to end.

In the 45 years that the show has run the cast has put on some 17,000 performances and has played to over six million audience members including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, David Bowie, and Robin Williams.

Cast members admit that these final performances are going to very emotional and bittersweet as they say goodbye to Snow White, Prince Charming, and the Who’s Who of political leaders and pop culture icons who are a part of the show.

When the curtain finally drops for the last time, “Phantom of the Opera” will officially take over the title of longest running musical.

Chris Daughtry

On the season two finale of “The Masked Singer” it all came down to the flamingo, the fox, and the rottweiler.

Each week when the panel made their guesses as to just whom they thought the identity of the rottweiler was, no one even came close to guessing former “American Idol” contestant and front man for his own rock band Daughtry, Chirs Daughtry.

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After coming in second behind the fox – Wayne Brady – Daughtry has been having a bit of fun with a new video of “Alive” by Sia – his final performance as the rottweiler – and has announced that he will be touring North America next spring.

Saying that he has always loved the song, Daughtry noted that he had been wanting to cover the song and disguised as the non-rocking rottweiler, Daughtry got his chance. Daughtry said that he purposely shied away from anything rock related during the run of the shoVw and instead chose songs that spoke to him.

Daughtry tour dates:
March 13 at the Peppermill Concert Hall in West Wendover, NV
March 20 at the Talking Stick Resort Ballroom in Scottsdale, AZ
March 21 at the Harrah’s in Laughlin, NV
March 24 at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ
March 25 at the Palace Theatre in Stamford, CT
March 27 at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA
March 28 at the Cabot Theatre in Beverly, MA
March 30 at the Molson Canadian Centre in Moncton, NB
April 17 at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onamia, MN
April 19 at the Club Regent Casino Event Center in Winnipeg, MB
April 21 at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino Event Centre in Calgary, AB
April 24 at the Tulalip Resort Casino in Marysville, WA
May 8 at the Waterville Opera House in Waterville, ME
May 9 at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, VT

feature photo credit: By Eduardo Sciammarella from Los Angeles, USA – American Idol, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79990742

rottweiler photo taken from “The Masked Singer” Facebook page.

Sebastian Bach

Now a solo artist, rocker Sebastian Bach still celebrates the music he made with his former band mates in Skid Row.

After a successful tour earlier this year, Bach is returning next spring for another tour for the 31st anniversary of Skid Row’s self titled debut album.

Bach will kick off the North American tour in March after returning from the Rock Legends Cruise.

Sebastian Bach tour dates:
March 25 at the Blue Lake Casino and Hotel in Blue Lake, CA
March 27 at Aladdin in Portland, OR
March 28 at Clearwater in Suquamish, WA
March 30 at the Distrikt in Victoria, BC
March 31 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, BC
April 3 at the Palace Theatre in Calgary, AB
April 4 at the River Cree Casino in Edmonton, AB
April 5 at Casino Regina in Regina, SK
April 7 at the Skyway Theatre in Minneapolis, MN
April 8 at Loe’s Live in Rosemont, IL
April 10 at The Space at Westbury in Westbury, NY
April 11 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT
April 13 at the Howard Theatre ib Washington, DC
April 14 at the Beacon Theater in Hopewell, VA
April 15 at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA
April 16 at the Big Night Live in Boston, MA
April 18 at the L’Imperial Bell in Quebec City, QC
April 19 at the Corona Theatre in Montreal, QC
April 20 at Phoenix in Toronto, ON
April 22 at Harpos in Detroit, MI
April 24 at the Entertainment Center in Renfro Valley, KY
April 25 at Dr. Pepper Park in Roanoke, VA
April 26 at the Paramount Theatre in Bristol, TN
April 30 at Captain Hiram’s in Sebastian, FL
May 1 at the Vinyl Music Hall in Pensacola, FL
May 2 at Brewsky’s in Hattiesburg, MS
May 3 at the Varsity Theatre in Baton Rouge, LA
May 5 at the Gas Monkey in Dallas, TX
May 9 at the House of Blues in San Diego, CA
May 10 at the Fonda in Los Angeles, CA
May 11 at Slim’s in San Francisco, CA

Sigur Ros Releases Limited Edition Vinyl

It is fitting that a local band provide the music for a documentary film a out their homeland. The internationally recognized band Sigur Ros has provided the soundtrack behind the film “Hlemmur” and is offering it up as a limited edition vinyl release. Sigur Ros composed the music for the film that was released in 2002.

Preciously available on CD and DVD, the band is offering the soundtrack on vinyl for the first time. The package is listed at $80 and is available on the Sigur Ros website at sigurros.com.

The documentary follows the sometimes chaotic lives of some homeless residents in Reykjavik who call the central bus station home.

The two disc set also includes a hardback book which is numbered. The sets are limited to only 2002 copies. The packages are expected to be delivered in January.

Sigur Ros is donating 10 percent of each sale to the Icelandic organization Loftur Gunnarsson Foundation – an organization who assists people who are homeless.

The organization is named after a man who was homeless and died at the age of 32 due to a lack of the necessary medical assistance.

To learn more a out the organization, go to http://www.lofturgunnarsson.com.

NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Junior Johnson Dies

For many NASCAR is little more than a southern sport born out of the days of moonshine, stills, and escaping the wrath of the revenuer.

But thanks to the likes of Hall of Fame legendary car owner Junior Johnson, NASCAR and the sport of stock car racing has advanced far beyond the days of running through the backwoods to escape the “revenuer”.

Former NASCAR driver and car owner Junior Johnson died December 20 at the age of 88. While no official cause of death was given, Johnson had been in declining health and was in hospice care at the time of his death.

Johnson was a former moonshine runner before becoming a 50 race winning driver before becoming a car owner and Hall of Famer. As a car owner, Johnson’s drivers won him over 130 races and six championships – three with Cale Yaroborough and three with Darrell Waltrip. Johnson was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural class in 2010.

Over the years Johnson had several drivers who ran his race cars including Bobby Isaac, Curtis Turner, Darel Dieringer, AJ Foyt, Gordon Johncock, Fred Lorenzen, Lloyd Ruby, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Donnie Allison, David Pearson, Earl Ross, Cale Yarborough, Richard Childress, Darrell Waltrip, J.D. McDuffie, Neil Bonnett, Davey Allison, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Sterling Marlin, Bill Elliott, Hut Stricklin, Jeff Green, Tommy Kendall, Jimmy Spencer, Loy Allen Jr, Brett Bodine, Jimmy Horton, Greg Sacks, and Elton Sawyer.

Former driver and NASCAR history buff Dale Earnhardt Jr called Johnson, “the last American hero.”

The film “The Last American Hero” is based on Johnson’s life as a moonshiner.

NASCAR team owners are known for pushing the envelope when it comes to following the rules; Junior Johnson was one of the best at finding loopholes in the rules. Johnson is partly responsible for NASCAR designing templates that car owners must follow.

He was born Robert Glenn Johnson Jr on June 28, 1931 in Ingle Hollow, North Carolina the son of bootlegger who learned his driving style on the back roads of North Carolina running moonshine for his father. Johnson was the middle child of seven children.

While moonshine and the backwoods still are little more than a memory; the legal whiskey Midnight Moon is based on Johnson family recipe that dates back to 1791. Junior is part owner in the company.

Like many NASCAR drivers, Johnson got his start at the local race track in North Wilkesboro and Hickory Motor Speedway in the 1950’s. He entered his first race in 1953 and won his first race on May 7, 1955.

He was caught and convicted of running moonshine in 1956; but after “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen included Johnson in his song “Cadillac Ranch” with the line “runnin’ through the woods of Carolina”, then President Ronald Reagan pardoned Johnson.

An innovator, Johnson contacted R. J. Reynonds – a tobacco company – for sponsorship on his car after then President Richard Nixon singed into a law a ban forbidding tobacco advertising on the television and radio. It was Johnson who also put NASCAR and R.J. Reynolds together for the first big sponsorship of the sport.

Johnson is survived by his third wife Lisa and children Robert III and Meredith.

 

feature photo credit: By Ted Van Pelt – originally posted to Flickr as Junior 1985 Photos by Ted Van Pelt, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4590852

Stone Temple Pilots

For something a little different, the Stone Temple Pilots have planned an acoustic album – “Perdida” – to be released on February 7.

Keeping with the theme, the band has also planned a new tour – an unplugged tour – next year in the winter.

Stone Temple Pilot member Dean Deleo said, “some songs are obvious candidates for an acoustic performance. What will be really interesting are the unexpected choices, where we reimagine a familiar song and present in a totally different light.”

STP drummer Eric Kretz added, “we’ll finally get a chance to play songs from our catalog that we’ve never played live, or in some cases, haven’t played live in more than 20 years.”

Robert Deleo noted, “it’s not only a chance for us to celebrate our new album in a special way, but also everything that’s brought us to this moment.”

Stone Temple Pilots tour dates:
Feb. 5 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, BC
Feb. 7 at the Snoqualmie Casino in Snoqualmie, WA
Feb. 8 at the Knitting Factory in Boise, ID
Feb. 9 at the Roseland Theater in Portland, OR
Feb. 12 at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, CA
Feb. 13 at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA
Feb. 15 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, CO
Feb. 17 at the Uptown Theater in Knasas City, MO
Feb. 19 at the Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee, WI
Feb. 21 at The Fillmore in Detroit, MI
Feb. 22 at the Madison Theatre in Covington, KY
Feb. 25 at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City, NY
Feb. 27 at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, ON
Feb. 29 at the Tropicana in Atlantic City, NJ
March 1 at the Wilbur Theatrei n Boston, MA

NASCAR Hall Gets Guest Curator

Since the NASCAR Hall of Fame opened in 2010, there has been a Glory Road exhibit. It is the focal point of the Hall of Fame and every three years the exhibit gets a makeover that features a new theme and 18 new race cars. The exhibit will include a curved track with the various bankings found on NASCAR tracks.

For the fourth installment of the exhibit the Hall of Fame is bringing in a guest curator to help create the exhibit and choose the cars. Dale Earnhardt Jr is the first ever guest curator for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” opens on January 11 with all of the cars selected personally by Dale Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr is a big NASCAR history enthusiast who is always ready to learn more and share what he has learned.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley spoke on the upcoming venture saying, “we are excited to present some of NASCAR’s most iconic premier series championship cars from the eyes of one of our biggest fans and ambassadors, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I have always been inspired by Dale Jr.’s sincere interest in, and appreciation for, the history of our great sport. Having Dale guest curate one of our most recognizable exhibits following his days as a full-time driver has always been one of my personal goals. With so much from which to choose, selecting a theme, and narrowing that theme to 18 cars from a list of 75 – 100 available cars, is a very tough task. I know I can speak for my fellow NASCAR fans in thanking Dale for once again giving back to the sport he so dearly loves.”

Dale Jr spoke on the opportunity to be a guest curator and help to create the exhibit saying, “having the chance to help choose the cars for the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s newest installment of Glory Road was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Everyone knows how much I enjoy learning about the history of our sport and sharing that history with people, and with this, I’m able to play a small role in what we share with fans who visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I knew when Winston (Kelley) and his team first met with me that if I was able to pick the cars for the exhibit, I wanted it to focus on the champions of our sport.

Earnhardt continued saying, “I felt like that was a no brainer. I picked cars for this exhibit for many different reasons. But I definitely wanted to represent a broad history of the sport as a whole, so we could also see the progression of the cars. It’s really cool when they’re all there together and you can see all that’s changed in the technology from where we started to where we are today.”

After three exhibits featuring some of the most recognizable race cars and drivers in the history of the sport, the Hall of Fame has partnered with Dale Jr to bring a collection like no other to celebrate championship moments and the champions of racing.

To learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame, go to nascarhall.com

 

NASCAR Drivers Join iRacing Series

In recent years computer racing or iRacing has gained a huge popularity among racers and racing fans.

Monster Energy Cup Series driver William Byron never stepped into a race car prior to his being signed with the Gander Outdoors Truck Series but was a multiple iRacing champion.

For the 2020 iRacing season Byron will join 19 other teams including Stewart-Haas Racing, Kyle Larson, and Denny Hamlin as they compete for the iRacing World Championship Series.

Among the new virtual racing teams joining the series next season are some real world teams and drivers that have amassed over 90 NASCAR races, three championships, thee All-Star victories, and a Hall of Fame inductee.

The 2020 iRacing season begins on February 11 at Daytona International Speedway.

Speaking on the new season, iRacing.com president Tony Gardner said, “we’re elated to announce 20 teams for the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series. The amount of interest we’ve seen in the series has been beyond anything we could have possibly imagined when we first opened the series up to real-world racing teams and professional gaming squads for 2019. With a full grid for this season, including some prominent newcomers, we’re expecting some intense team battles throughout the year!”

The iRacing teams competing for the 2020 season are:
Burton-Kligerman eSports
Clint Bowyer Racing
Denny Hamlin Racing
G2 eSports
Jim Beaver eSports
Joe Gibbs Racing
JR Motorsports
JTG Daugherty Racing
Kyle Larson Racing eSports
Letarte eSports
Mode Motorsports
Renegades eSport
Richmond Raceway eSports
Roush Fenway Racing
Stewart-Haas eSports
Team Dillon eSports
Virtual Racing School
Williams eSports
William Byron eSports
Wood Brothers Racing

Each team will consist of two drivers.

For more information on iRacing go to iracing.com.

 

feature photo credit: By Indianguy117 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49604009

Fun and Music at the Jingle Bell Jam

While the weather outside wasn’t all that frightful, inside Kleinhans Music Hall it was definitely delightful for the annual Jingle Bell Jam.

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Prior to the January 15 program, there were lots of activities for the children including making Christmas cards for members of the military who will be away from home on Christmas.

Conductor Jaman Dunn and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra were joined by the Royal Academy of Ballet and Dance and the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts for a fun filled afternoon of music and dance.

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The program opened with the “Christmas Canticles” – a medley of Christmas songs.

After a little quiz about snow, Jaman Dunn invited the audience to sing along as the BPO performed the most popular song about snow – “Let it Snow”.

No holiday concert is complete without a little music from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, the BPO was joined by the Royal Academy of Ballet for “Waltz of the Snowflakes”.

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And what Christmas program is complete without a litt movie music? Joined by the BAVPA the BPO performed three songs from the movie “Home Alone” – “Somewhere in My Memory”, “Star of Bethlehem”, and “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas”.

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The BPO and BAVPA performed the ever popular “Christmastime is Here” from a “Charlie Brown Christmas”.

Taking a break from his busy schedule of getting all the toys ready, Santa Claus made a visit for a performance of “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”. Then after a quick lesson from Jaman Dunn on conducting, Santa led the Orchestra in the fun and popular “Sleigh Ride”.

Finish out the afternoon of music, Santa led the audience in “A Holly and Jolly Sing-a-long” that included “Deck the Halls”, “Jingle Bells”, “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”, “Up on the Rooftop”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.

After the concert, guests were invited to join Santa in the Mary Seaton room for milk and cookies.

Busch Returns to NASCAR

As a part of the new sponsor partnerships, Anheuser-Busch will once again sponsor the annual Clash race that kicks off Speedweeks in Daytona and helps to set the stage for the biggest race of the season – the Daytona 500.

Busch was the original sponsor for the race when it began in 1979 and continued to sponsor the race until 1997. Under the name of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch continued to sponsor the Clash until 2011 when a new sponsor took over.

Speaking on the return of Busch to The Clash, Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said, “Busch Beer will forever be linked to the history of The Clash and we are thrilled to welcome them back as we collectively drive excitement for the start of the 2020 season.”

The 2020 Busch Clash will be February 9 on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway. The Clash is a 75 lap – 187.5 mile – exhibition race that features 2019 Pole winners, past active Clash champions, active drivers who have won the Daytona 500 or sat on the pole for the 500, and 2019 Playoff drivers.

Since Buddy Baker won the first Clash in 1979, there have been a total of 23 winners with the Earnhardts taking the lead. Dale Earnhardt Sr won a total of six races – the most of any driver – with son Dale Jr winning two. There have been a total of 10 drivers who have won the race more than once.

Previous The Clash winners:

Buddy Baker
Dale Earnhardt

Darrell Waltrip

Bobby Allison

Neil Bonnett

Terry Labonte

Bill Elliott

Ken Schrader

Geoff Bodine

Jeff Gordon

Dale Jarrett

Rusty Wallace

Mark Martin

Tony Stewart

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Jimmie Johnson

Denny Hamlin

Kevin Harvick

Kurt Busch

Kyle Busch

Matt Kenseth

Joey Logano

Brad Keselowski

Kenny Chesney

Country music star Kenny Chesney has planned a summer tour featuring outdoor venues he is calling the Chillaxification Tour.

On December 17, Chesney has announced some additional dates for the tour that is set to begin in late April.

Michael Franti & Spearhead will be opening the shows for Chesney.

Kenny Chesney tour dates:
April 18 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas,TX
April 25 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI
May 2 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN
May 7 at the Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, FL
May 9 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL
May 13 at the Bankplus Amphitheater in Southaven, MS
May 14 at the Brandon Amphitheater in Brandon, MS
May 16 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA
May 22 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX
May 23 at The Alamodome in San Antonio, TX
May 28 at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH
May 30 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA
June 4 at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park in Raleigh, NC
June 6 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA
June 11 at the Walmart AMP in Rogers, AR
June 13 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO
June 17 at the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater in Virginia Beach, VA
June 18 at the Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA
June 20 at Buckeye Stadium in Columbus, OH
June 25 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, NC
June 27 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN
July 2 & 3 at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena in Lake Tahoe, CA
July 5 at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, MT
July 11 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO
July 18 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA
July 23 at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, IN
July 25 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL
July 29 at the Isleta Amphitheater in Albuquerque, NM
July 3 at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, AZ
Aug 1 at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, CA
Aug 5 at the Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater in Boise, ID
Aug 6 at the USANA Amphitheater in Salt Lake City, UT
Aug 8 at Empower Field in Denver, CO
Aug 15 at Ford Field in Detroit, MI
Aug 20 at the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater in Syracuse, NY
Aug 22 at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ
Aug 26 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MO
Aug 28 & 29 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA

New Winner Crowned on ‘The Voice’

It all comes down to this…

It’s the grand finale for season 17 of “The Voice” and at the end of the two hour gala event, a new winner will be crowned “The Voice”.

Even as the show began, Ricky Duran held the number one spot on the iTunes overall chart with his original single “A Woman Like Her”. Jake Hoot and coach Kelly Clarkson, Katie Kadan, Jake Hoot with his original single “Better Off Without You”, Jake Hoot’s performance of “Amazed”, and Katie Kadan’s performance of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” all ranked in the top 10 of the iTunes overall chart. Six more “The Voice” performances charted in the top 40 of the iTunes overall singles chart.

Alex, Will, Max and Shane get the night started off with a rousing rendition of “Give Me Some Lovin’”.

The Grammy Award winning Country music trio Lady Antebellum take the stage to perform their new hit song “What If I Never Get Over You?”

The Black Eyed Peas take the stage with J Balvin with the dance group Illuminate for a performance.

Katie Kaden joins Adam Lambert for a performance of the Cher hit “Believe” and brought the coaches to their feet.

Rose Short joins Gospel legend Yolanda Adams for the Gospel song “In the Midst of it All”.

Kat, Marybeth, Gracee, and Cali joined up for a performance of “Neon Moon”.

Grammy Award winning British artist Dua Lipa takes the stage to perform her latest hit “Don’t Stop Now”.

Ricky Duran takes the stage with his idol, Grammy Award winning Blues artist Gary Clark Jr and brought the house to their feet.

Host Carson Daly announces that “The Voice” is ready to audition the next season of singers and invites singing hopefuls to go on the website to learn how and where to audition.

Season 16 “The Voice” winner Maelynn returns to “The Voice” stage for a performance of the Christmas classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

Jake Hoot joins the award winning Country music group Little Big Town for a performance of their new single “Over Drinking”.

Award winning performer and former “The Voice” coach Jennifer Hudson takes the stage for the first live performance of “Memory” from the new “Cats” movie.

Hello Sunday, Joana, and Myracle join forces for a performance of “Keep Me Hanging On”.

Country music star Luke Combs takes the stage for a performance of his number hit “Even Though I’m Leaving”.

And finally the time has arrived to reveal the final results of the season…
The singer in fourth place is Rose Short from Team Gwen.

The singer in third place is Katie Kaden of Team Legend.

It’s down to the guys – Ricky and Jake.

And the final results…and winner of season 17 on “The Voice is….

…Jake Hoot!!!
Kelly was the only coach to turn her chair for Jake and earned herself her third “The Voice” win in four seasons.

Final Performances on ‘The Voice’

It’s the final night of competition on “The Voice”. The four remaining artists – Katie Kadem, Rose Short, Jake Hoot, and Ricky Duran – will all perform for the final fan votes of the season.

This is the first time in seven years that all four coaches have a singer in the finals.

Each singer will perform three times – two solos, including a new single, and a holiday duet with their coach.

Ricky Duran gets the night of music started off with his take on the Tom Petty hit “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and brought the house down. Carson said that they loved the rock and roll; adding that they have missed it on the show. Kelly said that Ricky’s range was incredible. John agreed that it was cool to hear classic rock on the show; adding that he loved what Ricky was doing. Blake said that Ricky never lets anyone down; adding that he did a great job.

Next up Jake Hoot performs his new single “Better Off Without You”. Jake co-wrote the song. He is the only one of the final four who had a hand in writing their new original single. Gwen said that it was exciting to hear an original song. Kelly called Jake a great writer; adding that she liked that he got to showcase his writing talent.

Katie Kadem and Coach John Legend perform the first duet of the night with “Merry Christmas, Baby”.

Rose Short performs her original song “Steamroller”. Carson called the performance awesome. Blake said that he wasn’t sure he has ever heard a better pairing of a singer and an original song on the show. Gwen noted that Rose was having a good time on stage.

Blake and Ricky pair up for their duet of the Chuck Berry song “Run, Run, Rudolph”.

Katie Kadem sings her original single “All Better”. Kelly said that it was a killer song and well matched up. John said that the song and Katie was a perfect marriage.

Kelly and Jake Hoot pair up for the performance of the Sarah McLachlan song “Winter Song”.

In the final duet of the night is Gwen and Rose with the Gwen Stafani song “My Gift is You”.

Jake Hoot gives his final performance of the night with “Amazed” by Lonestar. Jake has been the most streamed artist this season and his performance of “Desperato” ranked number one on the iTunes music chart. Saying that she was a big fan, Gwen called the performance beautiful. Kelly said that Jake is everything she grew up hearing in Country music.

For her final performance, Katie Kadem sang the Aerosmith smash “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”. With the crowd cheering, Blake noted that people love Katie; saying that the performance was incredible. John said that he was honoured to work with Katie this season; adding that she has been incredible all season.

For his final performance, Ricky sang his original song “A Woman Like Her”. Kelly said that Ricky reminded her of Bruce Springsteen; adding that it was a perfect song. John said that he was jealous that he wasn’t pitched the song; adding that he feels like it will be the most streamed original song. Blake called it Ricky’s best performance of the season.

Closing out the night, Rose sang the Elton John song “Border Song” and brought the coaches to their feet. John said that it was a very special performance and a beautiful moment. Gwen noted that Rose has known what to do all along the way; adding that Rose is a magical person.

A new winner will be crowned on Tuesday in a star studded two hour event.

Black Label Society

Due to “unforeseen circumstances” Black Label Society had to postpone a number of concert dates. Those dates have now been rescheduled with Obituary and Lord Dying serving as the support bands.

Black Label Society tour dates:
Feb 26 at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson, AZ
Feb 27 at the House of Blues in San Diego, CA
Feb 28 at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium in Riverside, CA
Feb 29 at the Virginia Street Brewhouse in Reno, NV
March 1 at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, CA
March 3 at the Showbox SoDo in Seattle, WA
March 4 at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, BC
March 6 at the Bowes Event Centre in Grande Prairie, AB
March 7 at the MacEwan Hall in Calgary, AB
March 8 at the Midway Bar in Edmonton, AB
March 10 at the Burton Cummings Theatre in Winnipeg, MB
March 12 at The Rave Eagles Club in Milwaukee, WI
March 13 at the Kewadin Casinos in Sault Ste. Marie, MI
March 14 at the North Star Mohican Casino Resort in Bowler, WI
March 16 at the Old Forester’s Paristown Hall in Louisville, KY
March 17 at the Orange Peel in Asheville, NC
March 19 at the Mars Music Hall in Huntsville, AL
March 20 at the Hard Rock in Biloxi, MS
March 21 at The Plant in Dothan, AL
March 22 at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, FL
March 24 at the Music Farm in Charleston, SC
March 25 at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA
March 28 at The Webster in Hartford, CT

Bad Religion and Alkaline Trio

Bad Religion and the Alkaline Trio are pairing up for a tour around the United States with a stop in Toronto beginning next spring.

The duo are co-headlining the tour for a 40th anniversary celebration of Bad Religion. While the bands have shared festivals and the Vans Warped Tour together, this will mark the first time that the two bands have toured together solo.

Bad Religion and Alkaline Trio tour dates:
March 26 at The Palladium in Los Angeles, CA
March 27 at the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, NV
March 28 at the Marquee Theatre in Phoenix, AZ
March 30 at the Mission Ballroom in Denver, CO
April 1 at Stubb’s in Austin, TX
April 2 at the Gas Monkey in Dallas, TX
April 4 at the House of Blues in Orlando, FL
April 6 at The NorVa in Norfolk, VA
April 7 at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD
April 8 at the Buffalo RiverWorks in Buffalo, NY
April 10 at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ
April 11 at The Palladium in Worcester, MA
April 13 at Stage AE in Pittsburgh, PA
April 14 at the Rebel in Toronto, ON
April 15 at The Fillmore in Detroit, MI
April 17 at Express Live! In Columbus, OH
April 18 at the Radius in Chicago, IL
April 19 at the Eagles Club in Milwaukee, WI

Lindsay Stirling

Currently on her Warmer in the Winter holiday tour, New Age violin virtuoso Lindsay Stirling has planned some tour dates in South America this coming spring (fall in south of the equator).

Concert and Meet and Greet packages are now on sale.

Lindsay Stirling tour dates:
Dec 16 at the Peach Concert Hall in Greenville, SC
Dec 17 at the Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, NC
Dec 18 at the Moran Theater in Jacksonville, FL
Dec 19 at the Bob Carr Theater in Orlando, FL
Dec 20 at the Ruth Eckard Hall in Clearwater, FL
Dec 21 at the Au-Rene Theater in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Dec 23 at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers, FL
Dec 31 at Atlantis in Nassau, The Bahamas
March 12 at the Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in Bogota, Colombia
March 14 at the Teatro Caupolican in Santiago, Chile
March 17 at the Maria Angola in Lima, Peru
March 19 at the Unimed Hall in Sao Paulo, Brazil
March 20 at the Sabiazinho Arena in Uberlandia, Brazil
March 23 at the Luna Park Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina
March 25 at the Auditorio Nacional Sodre in Montevideo, Uruguay
June 25-28 at the Electric Forest Festival in Rothbury, MI

Thomas Rhett

Award winning Country music star Thomas Rhett has announced a tour for next summer. “The Center Point Road Tour” is set to kick off in late May and will include a number of outdoor venues.

Fellow Country music star Cole Swindell is scheduled to open most of the dates on the tour.

Tickets go on sage beginning January 24.

Thomas Rhett “The Center Point Road” tour dates:
May 29 & 30 at the Band of NH Pavilion in Gilford, NH
June 5 & 6 at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH
June 7 at the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, OH
June 11 at the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview in Syracuse, NY
June 12 at the KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown, PA
June 19 at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, FL
June 20 at the Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, FL
July 9 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, NC
July 10 at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Park in Raleigh, NC
July 11 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ
July 16 at the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Birmingham, AL
July 17 at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in St. Louis, MO
July 23 at the USANA Amphitheater in Salt Lake City, UT
July 24 at the Idaho Center Amphitheater in Boise, ID
July 30 at the Toyota Amphitheatre in Sacramento, CA
July 31 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA
Aug 7 at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, AZ
Aug 8 at the Isleta Amphitheater in Albuquerque, NM
Aug 21 at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor, ME
Aug 22 at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, CT
Aug 23 at the CMAC in Canandaigua, NY
Aug 27 at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY
Aug 28 at the BB&T Pavilion in Philadelphia, PA
Aug 29 at the Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA

Ozzy Osbourne

Hall of Fame rocker Ozzy Osbourne had planned to make one more tour around the world before hanging up the microphone to stay home and spend more time with wife and manager Sharon. However, some serious medical issues not only put a stop to the tour, but put Ozzy in the hospital as well.

Out of the hospital and on the mend, Ozzy made a triumphant return to the stage in a performance with Post Malone and Andrew Watt at The Forum and on the American Music Awards last month.

The AMA performance was Ozzy’s first television appearance in some 10 years.

And Ozzy has rescheduled his tour – the No More Tours 2 – with dates in North America and Europe beginning in late May.

Ozzy Osbourne tour dates:
May 27 at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA
May 29 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL
May 31 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, FL
June 2 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, NC
June 4 at the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, OH
June 6 at the Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, PA
June 11 at the KeyBank Pavilion in Pittsburgh, PA
June 13 at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavillion in Bangor, ME
June 16 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC
June 18 at the First Ontario Centre in Hamilton, ON
June 20 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT
June 22 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY
June 24 at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in St. Louis, MO
June 26 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO
June 28 at the Wells Fargo Center in Des Moines, IA
July 1 at the Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI
July 3 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN
July 7 at the Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB
July 9 at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC
July 11 at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, WA
July 15 at the Moda Center in Portland, OR
July 17 at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, CA
July 23 at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, AZ
July 25 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA
July 27 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA
July 29 at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
July 31 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV
Oct 23 a the Utilita Arena in Newcastle, UK
Oct 25 at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, UK
Oct 28 at The O2 in London, UK
Oct 31 at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, UK
Nov 2 at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, UK
Nov 5 at the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland
Nov 8 at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, UK
Nov 11 at the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany
Nov 13 at the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic
Nov 16 at the Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria
Nov 19 at the Unipol Arena in Bologna, Italy
Nov 22 at the WiZink Arena in Madrid, Spain
Nov 24 at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland
Nov 26 at the Olympiahalle in Munich, Germany
Nov 28 at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany
Nov 30 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Germany
Dec 3 at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany
Dec 5 at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden
Dec 7 at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland

Opera Star Jessye Norman Has Died

Award winning opera star Jessye Norman died September 30 as a result of complications from a spinal cord injury sustained in 2015. The 74 year old Norman died in New York City only two weeks after her 74th birthday.

Among her numerous performances; Norman performed in “Alceste”, “Ask Your Mama”, “12 Moods”, “Carmen”, ″Aida”, “ Les Troyens”, and “Tannhäuser”.

Her concert appearances include the Ravinia Festival, the Montreaux Jazz Festival, San Sebastian Heineken Jazzaldia, and numerous concert halls around the world including over 80 performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

During her career, Norman has shared the stage with Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, Garth Brooks, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Wyclef Jean, Talib Kweli, Usher, Ludacris, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Joss Stone.

Norman’s accomplishments include four Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner, is a Kennedy Center Honour, has won the National Medal of Arts, has a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters from France, is a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the British Royal Academy of Music,

A pioneer and diverse singer, Nrman once said, “Pigeonholing is only interesting to pigeons.”

An advocate of diversity and the arts, Norman gave back by opening a school for the arts and helped to raise funds for scholarships.

Jessye Mae Norman was born September 15, 1945 in the segregated south in the city of Augusta, Georgia and grew up singing in the church. She earned a scholarship to study music at Howard University (a Historically Black College/University) in Washington, DC and later went to the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Michigan.

She made her operatic debut in 1969 and took the world by storm.

Jessye Norman is survived by her siblings James and Elaine.

 

feature photo credit: By Jati Lindsay – This file has been extracted from another file: Jessye Norman- In Conversation with Tom Hall (15952002266).jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50271591

Guns ‘N’ Roses

Rockers Guns ‘N’ Roses reunited and went on a tour…and they haven’t stopped.

The rockers are heading south of the border to Mexico and South America before crossing the pond for a European tour in the spring and early summer.

Guns “n” Roses tour dates:
Jan 31 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL
March 14 at the Vive Latino Festival in Mexico City, Mexico
March 18 at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma in San Jose, Costa Rica
March 21 at Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa in Quito, Ecuador
March 24 at Estadio Universidad San Marcos in Lima, Peru
March 27 at Lollapalooza in Santiago, Chile
March 29 at Lollapalooza in Buenos Aires, Argentina
April 3 at Lollapalooza in Sao Paola, Brazil
April 5 at Estereo Picnic in Bogota, Colombia
May 20 at Estadio Universidad San Marcos in Lisbon, Portugal
May 23 at Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville, Spain
May 26 at the Olympiastadion in Munich, Germany
May 29 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, UK
June 2 at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, Germany
June 6 at the Sweden Rock Festival in Solvesborg, Sweden
June 9 at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria
June 12 at the Firenze Rock in Firenze, Italy
June 14 at the Stade de Suisse in Berne, Switzerland
June 17 at the PGE Narodowy in Warsaw, Poland
June 19 at the Letnany Airport in Prague, Czech Republic
June 21 at the Pinkpop in Landgraaf, Netherlands
June 27 at Marlay Park in Dublin, Ireland

2020 Songwriters Hall of Fame Nominees

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honours the musicians for their contributions to music over the years. The Songwriters Hall of Fame honours the songwriters who create the music. A songwriter or songwriting duo or group becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame 20 years after penning their first hit song.

The Songwriters Hall have released the list of writers who have been nominated for the 2020 class. From the 24 songwriters nominated, six writers or writing groups will be chosen for induction into the Hall of Fame on June 11 in New York City.

The 2020 Songwriter Hall of Fame nominees are:
Musical theater writers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who are known for music from the Broadway productions “Ragtime”, “Once On This Island”, “Anastasia”, “Seussical”, and “Rocky”.

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart are known for music by Jay and the Americans, The Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and their own work.

L. Russell Brown and Irwin Levine wrote some of Tony Orlando and Dawn’s biggest hits and penned songs for the Four Seasons.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Sonny Curtis was a member of Buddy Holly’s band The Crickets and took over the vocals after the death of Holly. Along with writing some of the songs by The Crickets, Curtis also wrote for Bobby Vee, Andy Williams, and Keith Whitley.

Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan began writing music together in 1978 after signing on to Pi-Gem Music Publishing separately. They wrote hit songs for Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, and Sylvia. Both writers were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame separately.

Jerry Fuller had a solo music career; as well as, writing hits for Ricky Nelson and Gary Puckett and The Union Gap.

Tony Macaulay is an award winning English songwriter who wrote music for The Foundations, Herman’s Hermits, The Hollies, Edison Lighthouse, and The Fortunes.

Bob McDill penned songs for Perry Como and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Don Williams, Anne Murray, The Kendalls, Alan Jackson and Bobby Bare. The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer wrote a song a week for 30 years.

The Neptunes – Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo – are songwriters and producers wrote for Wreckx-N-Effect’s, Mase, Jay Z, Usher, Britney Spears, and Nelly.

Roger Nichols is a former UCLA basketball player turned songwriter wrote songs for The Carpenters, Art Garfunkel, Barbra Streisand, and Three Dog Night. Nichols also co-wrote the Paul Anka hit song “Times of Your Life”.

Rick Nowels has been writing music since the age of 13. The Grammy Award winning songwriter has penned or co-wrote over 60 top 20 hits including songs for Belinda Carlile, Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Dido, Santana with Michelle Branch, John Legend, New Radicals, Jewel, Colbie Caillat, Jamie xx, and Dua Lipa. He has also collaborated with Lana Del Ray, Adele, Sia Nelly Furtado, Alessia Cara, and Tom Odell.

William “Mickey” Stevenson is a Motown A&R director turned songwriter who has written for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Four Tops, and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

Having co-written 17 of her 18 hit songs, Mariah Carey makes her second trip to the list of nominees. She has collaborated with Gavin Christopher, Ben Margulies, Walter Afanasieff, David Cole, Robert Clivillés, Jermaine Dupri, Sean Combs, Kamaal Fareed, David Foster, Diane Warren, Bryan-Michael Cox, Babyface, Jay-Z and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

Gloria Estefan is the force behind the hit songs for the Latin Pop group The Miami Sound Machine including the music for the hit Broadway musical “On Your Feet”, “Anything for You”, “Words Get in the Way”, “Rythm is Gonna Get You”, and “Don’t Wanna Los You Now”.

David Gates was more than the founder, keyboard player, and singer for the soft rock band Bread, he wrote many of the band’s hit songs “Baby I’m-a Want You”, “Diary”, “Everything I Own”, “If:, and “Make It With You”.

Award winning country music star Vince Gill began his songwriting career when he was a part of Pure Prairie League and has continued as a solo artist. The Country Music Association Award and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame artist is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and has been named the Nashville Songwriters Association International Songwriter and Artist of the Decade for 1990-1999.

The Isley Brothers – Ernie Isley, Marving Isely, O’Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley, and Chris Jasper – had their first songwriting hit with “Shout” by Lulu in 1959. It wasn’t until 1964 that they had their first original hit and have continued to write hit songs .

Journey – Jonathan Cain, Steve Perry, and Neal Schon – are more than members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Each of the band’s core members participated in crafting some of the band’s biggest hits including “Wheel in the Sky”, “Don’t Stop Believin’”, “Who’s Crying Now”, “Open Arms”, “Separate Ways”, and “Faithfully”.

The Eurythmics – Annie Lennox and David Stewart – created their own sound with their songwriting, songwriting that also brought them some major hits including “Here Comes The Rain Again”, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”, “Would I Lie To You”, “Missionary Man”, and “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”.

Mike Love is already a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his band mates The Beach Boys. Love and fellow Beach Boy Brian Wilson penned a number of the band’s hit songs and gave rise to the “California surf music”. The Mike Love catalog of songs includes “California Girls”, “Good Vibrations”, “Help Me Rhonda”, “I Get Around, and “Fun, Fun, Fun”.

As the leader of his own band, Steve Miller has crafted numerous chart topping pop rock songs including “The Joker”, “Take the Money and Run”, “Rock’n Me”, “Fly Like an Eagle”, “Living in the USA”, and “Abracadabra”.

Outkast – Andre 3000 and Big Boi helped to bring Hip-Hop music to the mainstream with chart topping hits the world over. The award winning duo’s hits include “Hey Ya!”, “So Fresh”, “So Clean”, “The Way You Move”, “Ms. Jackson”, and “B.O.B.”.

R.E.M. – Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe –took the Georgia band out of the alternative rock world and brought them into mainstream music with their hit songs including “Losing My Religion”, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”, “Stand”, “Everybody Hurts”, and “Man On The Moon”.


Patti Smith began her songwriting career as a poet. Since those early days she has been a major influence on a nunmber of artists including Madonna, U2, Michael Stipe and Courtney Love. Smith has been awarded France’s Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Polar Music Prize, and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

feature photo taken from the Songwriters Hall of Fame Facebook page

Pearl Jam

Heavy rockers Pearl Jam have booked some summer tour dates in Europe after a two year hiatus on the Continent. The tour includes some festival dates.

Idles, the Pixies, and White Reaper will share the opening duties at the various venues.

Pearl Jam tour dates:
June 23 at Festhalle in Frankfurt, Germany
June 25 at Waldburhne in Berlin, Germany
June 27 at Lollapalooza in Stockholm, Sweden
June 29 at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, Denmark
July 2 at Rock Werchter in Werchter, Belgium
July 5 at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy
July 7 at the Wiener Stadhalle in Vienna, Austria
July 10 at Hyde Park in London, UK
July 13 at the Tauron Arena in Krakow, Poland
July 15 at the Budapest Arena in Budapest, Hungary
July 17 at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland
July 19 at Lollapalooza in Paris, France
July 21 at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Five Finger Death Punch

Currently on tour, hard rockers Five Finger Death Punch will be releasing a new album titled “F8” on February 28 and in April they will hit the road again for a spring tour of the U.S.

Kicking off in Sunrise, FL; the band is bringing Papa Roach, I Prevail, and Ice Nine Kills along for the tour.

Five Finger Death Punch tour dates:
April 8 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL
April 10 at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, GA
April 11 at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater in Pelham, AL
April 13 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX
April 14 at the Dickies Arena in Ft. Worth, TX
April 16 at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX
April 18 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, AZ
April 19 at the Viejas Arena in San Diego, CA
April 21 at The Forum in Los Angeles, CA
April 23 at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, WA
April 25 at the Veteran Memorial Coliseum in Portland, OR
April 27 at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO
April 29 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO
May 3 at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD
May 5 at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA
May 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ
May 8 at the Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati, OH
May 12 at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI

\May 14 at the PPG Paints Center in Pittsburgh, PA
May 15 at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ
May 17 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN
May 19 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL
May 20 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN

Faith No More

Faith No More will be reuniting next year and making a tour in the United Kingdom with a few European stops along the way.

After announcing some festival dates, the rockers added several more dates that will bring them back to Europe after an absence of over five years.

Faith No More tour dates:
June 10 at the O2 Apollo in Manchester, UK
June 11 at the O2 Academy in Glasgow, UK
June 13 at the Sunstroke Festival in Punchestown, Ireland
June 15 at the Academy in Birmingham, UK
June 16 at the O2 Academy Brixton in London, UK
June 20 at Hellfest in Clisson, France
June 26 at the Tons of Rock Fest in Oslo, Norway
June 28 at the Tuska Metal Festival in Helsinki, Finland
July 11 at the Mad Cool Festival in Madrid, Spain

The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers have planned a big North American tour with dates north and south of the border to celebrate 50 years of making music. Many of the dates are in outdoor venues.

And for the first time in 25 years, ALL of the original members will be on the tour – Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons, John McFee, and Michael McDonald.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will be joining The Doobie Brothers for the tour.

After the original 30 dates were announced, the band added another 23 dates to the tour.

The Doobie Brothers tour dates:
Feb 8, 12, 14, 15, 19, 21, and 22 at The Venetian in Las Vegas, NV
May 23 at the Cabo en Vivo in Los Cabos, Mexico
June 9 at the Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, FL
June 10 at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, FL
June 12 at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, FL
June 14 at the Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, GA
June 17 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN
June 19 at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, NC
June 20 at the Coastal Credit Union Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC
June 23 at the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater in Virginia Beach, VA
June 24 at the Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA
June 26 at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA
June 27 at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ
June 29 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ
June 30 at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY
July 2 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT
July 3 at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, MA
July 5 at the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater in Syracuse, NY
July 18 at the Budweiser Gardens in London, ON
July 19 at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, ON
July 21 at the Darien Lake Amphitheatre in Darien Lake, NY
July 22 at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH
July 24 at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Golford, NH
July 26 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY
July 29 at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater in Toledo, OH
July 30 at the Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center in Indianapolis, IN
Aug 1 at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI
Aug 2 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI
Aug 4 at the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, OH
Aug 6 at the KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown, PA
Aug 8 at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL
Aug 9 at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant, MI
Aug 12 at the Tyson Event Center in Sioux City, IA
Aug 14 at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in St. Louis, MO
Aug 15 at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, MO
Aug 28 at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, MN
Aug 30 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO
Sept 2 at the USANA Amphitheatre in Salt Lake City, UT
Sept 3 at the Ford Idaho Center in Boise, ID
Sept 5 at the White River Amphitheatre in Auburn, WA
Sept 6 at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater in Ridgefield, WA
Sept 8 at the Spokane Arena in Spokane, WA
Sept 10 at the Toyota Amphitheater in Wheatland, CA
Sept 12 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountainview, CA
Sept 13 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, CA
Sept 17 at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
Sept 18 at The Forum in Los Angeles, CA
Oct 3 at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, AZ
Oct 7 at the Isleta Amphitheater in Albuquerque, NM
Oct 9 at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving, TX
Oct 10 at the Cynthia Wood Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, TX
Oct 12 at the Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, AR
Oct 14 at the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City, LA
Oct 15 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA
Oct 17 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN

Longtime Actor Rene Auberjonois Dies

Award winning actor and Theater Hall of Fame member Rene Auberjonois died December 8 in his Los Angeles home at the age of 79 as a result of cancer.

A prolific actor that appeared in over 200 film, television, and Broadway productions, Auberjonois is best known to millions of “Star Trek” fans as the shape shifter Odo on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.

Beginning his acting career in the theater, Auberjonois once said, “I’m never going to retire. I’ll die with my boots on.” He appeared in four productions this year alone and will appear in “Cortex” which is currently in post production.

After making his Broadway debut in 1968 in a revival of the play “King Lear”, Auberjonois performed in “A Cry of Players”, “Fire”, “Coco”, Twelfth Night”, “Tricks”, “The Good Doctor”, “Break a Leg”, “Big River”, “Metamorphosis”, “City of Angels”, “Dance of the Vampires”, and “Sly Fox” earning a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, and induction into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Auberjonois’s television debut was an uncredited role in “Lilith” in 1964. Since that time he has appeared in film and television as hundreds of characters and provided the voice over for cartoon characters including Father John Mulcahy in the original film “M*A*S*H”, “Mod Squad”, ”Love, American Style”, “The Jeffersons”, “Rhoda”, “The Bionic Woman”, “Eyes of Laura Mars”, “Starsky & Hutch”, “Wonder Woman”, “Charlie’s Angels”, Clayton Runnymede Endicott III in 135 episodes of “Benson”, “Murder, She Wrote”, Dr. Strangesnork and other voices in 42 episodes of “Snorks”, Merlin in the TV movie “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, an uncredited role as Colonel West in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”, “Matlock”, security chief Odo in 173 episodes of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “The Patriot”, “Stargate: SG-1”, Scotish cousin Hagen Bridges in an episode of “Nash Bridges”, “Star Trek Enterprise”, Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of “Boston Legal”, “Madam Secretary”, and his final role in “First Cow”.

Auberjonois made his television directorial debut in “Marblehead Manor” in 1987. He also directed eight episodes of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.

Along with the over 200 film and television appearances, Auberjonois appeared as himself in award shows, talk shows, documentaries, and as a narrorator on a number of programs.

He was born René Murat Auberjonois on June 1, 1940 in New York City; a first generation American to a French mother and a Swiss father. His childhood was spent between New York, Paris, and London.

When not acting, he was a photographer, gourmet chef, artist, and recorded audiobooks.

He is survived by his wife of over 50 years Judith, children Remy and Tessa, sisters Marie-Laure and Anne, and grandchildren.

 

feature photo credit: By Beth Madison – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pixellle/3814131230/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17111179

Classical Sax with the BPO

When it comes to Classical music and the Orchestra, the saxophone is not the first instrument that comes to mind. But on December 7 and 8 the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra featured two compositions with the saxophones as the featured instrument.

The saxophone is a relative late comer in the ancient world of musical instruments, having come on the scene in 1846.

Since that time, saxophone players have been clamouring for composers to include them in their works.

Recently 25 American Classical saxophone players joined together to commission American composer Kenneth Fuchs to create a work for the saxophone and orchestra. The result was “Rush Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra”.

One of those 25 musicians who commissioned the work was Timothy McAllister who played the work with the London Syphony Orchestra with BPO Musical Director Joann Falletta conducting. Earlier this year the album including “Rush” won a Grammy Award at the annual awards gala.

With guest conductor Thomas Wilkins leading the Orchestra the program opened with the “Overture to La Gazza Ladra” by Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini.

Timothy McAllitster took the stage to perform the Kenneth Fuchs composition “Rush Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra” with Fuchs in the house. In the pre concert talk, Fuchs noted that composers Aaron Copeland and Leonard Berstein were major influences for his work. In “Rush” the influence of Copeland and his “Appalachian Spring” were very evident.

Finishing out the first half of the program, McAllister returned to the stage for a performance of the “Concerto in E-flat Major for Saxophone and String Orchestra, Op 109” by Aleksandr Glazunov.

After the intermission, Wilkins and the BPO return to the stage for “Lyric for String” by George Walker – the first African-American to be awarded the PhD for Doctor of Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

The musical program concluded with the Felix Mendelssohn composition “Symphony No 4 in A Major, Op 90” also known as the “Italian”.

Finalists Revealed on ‘The Voice’

Only one more week of “The Voice” remains, but before that the four finalists will be revealed on the Semi Finals results show.

On Monday’s show the eight semi finalists took the stage to give a solo performance and to perform a duet with a fellow contestant; but only four of them will survive the night – three from fan votes and the fourth from the final instant save of the season.

Six time “The Voice” winning coach Blake Shelton and buddy Trace Adkins get the show started off with a performance of their new single.

Noting that all eight of the acts charted on the iTunes singles charts after the show with some of them making it into the top 10.

In the first results of the night, the first singer moving on to the finals is Team Legend’s Katie Kaden.

Australian singer Tones and I comes to “The Voice” stage to perform her international hit “Dance Monkey”.

Luis Fonsi makes a surprise visit to “The Voice”. Kelly is trying to learn Spanish and Luis is trying to help.

In the next results, Team Kelly’s Jake Hoot is also moving on to the finals.

Season 14’s Caleb Lee returns to “The Voice” stage for a performance with Coach Kelly Clarkson of “I Dream in Southern”.

And the final artist moving on to the finals via fan votes is Team Blake’s Ricky Duran.

The three singers competing for the final spot in the finals via the instant save are…
Hello Sunday
Kat Hammock
and Rose Short

Marybeth Byrd and Will Breman have been eliminated from the competition.

Up first in the last chance performance are Hello Sunday from Team Kelly with “Chandelier”.

Team Blake’s Kat Hammock sings “You’ve Got a Friend”.

Closing out the last chance performances is Team Gwen’s Rose Short with “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”.

After the Instant Save vote, the last artist moving on to the finals is Team Gwen’s Rose Short.

And with that, each one of the coaches has a singer in the finale. Host Carson Daly noted that this is the first time in seven years that all four of the coaches have had a singer in the finals.

Rocking Hard with Dirty Vernon

On December 7 the hard rock cover band Dirty Vernon made a return visit to the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls for a performance.

The guys rattled the walls with some old songs and some new songs from some of rock’s biggest bands including Van Halen, Aerosmith, Pantera, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, ZZ Top, Rush, Black Sabbath, Motley Crue, Metallica, Golden Earring, KISS, Guns ‘N’ Roses, and Motorhead.

The guys of Dirty Vernon ensured that the Hard Rock Cafe lived up to its name with their rocking performance with some hot tunes on a cold western New York Saturday night.

JGR Loses Crew Chief

Each year NASCAR has its Silly Season with drivers retiring, being let go, or changing teams. But the drivers aren’t the only crew members who leave or move.

In 2017 Furniture Row Racing closed its doors; as a result, driver Martin Truex Jr and crew chief Cole Pearn joined Joe Gibbs Racing and the number 19 car.

On December 9, Pearn announced his retirement from Joe Gibbs Racing and sitting atop the pit box for driver Martin Truex Jr.

The Canadian born crew chief said that he wanted to spend more time with his family as his reason for leaving Joe Gibbs Racing.

A NASCAR season is a long one beginning in early February at Daytona and ending in mid November with the Championship race. While many crew members families travel on the circuit, spending time with that family is often difficult.

For the past five years Cole Pearn has been Martin Truex Jr’s crew chief. Prior to becoming a crew chief, Pearn was a team engineer at Furniture Row Racing.

A Yacht Rock Party with AM Gold

Most often when a tribute band performs, they are playing homage to a particular artist. But AM Gold takes the term tribute band to a whole new level by paying homage to an entire decade of music…what they call Yacht Rock – the music from 1975 to 1985.

Attired in white pants and ships commander’s hats, the six piece band took the stage of the Bear’s Den Showroom at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino on December 6 for a night of Yacht Rock that included the music of Toto, Hall and Oates, Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers, Christopher Cross, Van Morrison and Steely Dan.

AM Gold had the gathered crowd rocking in their seats, dancing in the aisles, and singing along from the first notes of “Rosanna” to the final note of “Easy Lover”.

In what became more of a full out party than a concert, AM Gold performed chart topping crowd pleasers including “Ride Like the Wind”, “Reeling in the Years”, “Dancing in the Moonlight”, “What a Fool Believes”, “Peg”, “Maneater”, “Rich Girl”, Takin’ it to the Streets”, “Sailing”, “I Can’t Go for That”, “Careless Whisper”, “The Heat is On”, the theme from “Footloose”, “Africa”, “Wake Me Up Before you Go Go”, and “All Night Long”.

Even after the house lights had come up, fans were clamouring for more Yacht Rock from the New York City band AM Gold.

In Newfoundland they hold Irish music sessiuns known as Kitchen Parties that are little more than a full out jam. AM Gold brings the American rock version of a Kitchen Party with their performances…a party you never want to end.

It’s the Semi Finals on ‘The Voice’

It’s the semi finals on “The Voice” and out of the thousands who tried for an audition, only eight acts remain. On results night half of them will be eliminated to reveal the Final Four battling for the win.

This week “The Voice” is heading back to the 80’s for the duets.

Team Legend’s Katie Kaden gets the night of music started off with “Lady Marmalade” by Labelle. John is the only coach who still has all of his team in tact. Carson said that was how you kick off the semi finals as the crowd goes wild. Kelly said that Katie is fun to watch; adding that it is awesome that Katie is on the show, Gwen said that it was her favourite Katie performance so far; adding that Katie demands attention. John said that every song Katie sings, she makes it her own and owns every performance.

Team Blake’s Kat Hammock with the Keane hit “Somewhere Only We Know”. Kelly said that the production was beautifully done; adding that kat did a fantastic job.

Gwen called Kat gifted and unique; adding that she could have a whole career in music. Blake called it Kat’s most powerful performance on the show; adding that she has a magical gift. Saying that Kat needs to be making records, Blake said that he isn’t going anywhere.

In the first duet of the night Ricky and Will pair up for “Your Love” by The Outfield. The performance included the guys rocking out on their guitars.

After her save last week, Team Legend’s Marybeth Byrd returns and takes on Carrie Underwood with “Before He Cheats” and brought John to his feet. Noting it was a tough vocal to tackle, Blake said that Marybeth did a great job. John said that Marybeth was like a new artist tonight; adding that it was her best performance.

Team Kelly’s Hello Sunday chose “Don’t You Worry About a Thing” by musical icon Stevie Wonder. John called it a fantastic performance. Kelly said that they did so well; adding they brought their A game.

In the next duet, Jake Hoot and Marybeth Byrd pair up for for “Up Where We Belong”.

Team Blake’s Ricky Duran takes on The Beatles with “Let it Be”. Known for his rocking guitar, Ricky starts the song on the piano and later moves to the guitar. An excited coach Blake said that Ricky gave the vocal performance of his life.

With blue hair and a bright pink jacket, Team Legend’s Will Breman performed the Bruno Mars song “Locked Out of Heaven”. Will went into the audience during his performance and rocked with the crowd. Carson called it a classic Will performance; adding you never know what he is going to do. John called Will’s stage presence electric.

Powerhouse singers Katie Kadem and Rose Short join forces for a performance of “Express Yourself” by Madonna.

In the final duet of the night, Hello Sunday and Kat Hammock join up up for a performance of the Pat Benatar song “We Belong”.

Team Gwen’s only remaining artist Rose Short takes on the Foreigner hit “I Wanna Know What Love Is” and brought the coaches to their feet. An emotional Gwen called the performance unbelievable. Kelly called Rose a gift.

Team Kelly’s Jake Hoot closes out the show with a performance of his mom’s favourite song “Desperado” by The Eagles. During rehearsals Kelly had no notes for Jake. Carson said that Jake did Mama Hoot proud. John noted that Jake’s voice is so comfortable; adding that he is a joy to hear. Kelly said that Jake has an incredible voice; adding that he delivered it perfectly.

On Tuesday, eight becomes four.

Voice of Big Bird and Oscar Dies

As the long time children’s television series “Sesame Street” prepares to be honoured at the Kennedy Center for their 50 plus years of entertaining and educating children, news comes that an integral member of the cast has died.

Known only as the voices of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, puppeteer Caroll Spinney died December 8 after a long illness in his Connecticut home less than three weeks before his 86th birthday.

10.9.10CarollSpinneyByLuigiNovi1By Luigi Novi, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11796575

Spinney took on the roles of Big Bird and Oscar in 1969 when PBS first aired the children’s program and continued to portray the characters including climbing into the Big Bird costume well into his 80’s.

Speaking on his choice of career as a puppeteer Spinney said, “before I came to ‘Sesame Street,’ I didn’t feel like what I was doing was very important. Big Bird helped me find my purpose.”

 

Tourism_Gnome_meets_Big_Bird_on_Sesame_Street_(34082765534)(1)By Henry Bellagnome from Troy, New York, United States – Tourism Gnome meets Big Bird on Sesame Street, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68970549

As with many actors who work behind a mask, Spinney’s name was never a household word unlike the names of the characters he played. In his memoir saying, “I may be the most unknown famous person in America. It’s the bird that’s famous.”

Sesame Street” owners Children’s Television Workshop spoke on Spinney saying, “Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define ‘Sesame Street’ from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending.

Spinney’s characters were polar opposites with the kind and gentle giant yellow canary Big Bird and the crusty and ornery trash can dwelling green grouch of Oscar. But everyone who worked with him noted that Spinney was Big Bird through and through.

But operating Big Bird was no easy task, a five foot nine Spinney occupied and operated an eight foot two inch bird by strapping a TV monitor to his chest, using his raised right hand to operate the big head, and his left had to operate the arms. After 50 years, Big Bird incurred quite a slouch as the toll of the heavy costume took its toll.

In 2015, Spinney retired from operating the characters but continued to give them their voices. Spinney retired from “Sesame Street” in 2018.

This is not the first time Spinney…or Big Bird…have had to deal with the death of a fellow member of “Sesame Street”. In 1983, the show’s storekeeper Mr. Hooper died and it was Big Bird who was chosen to try and learn how to accept the event and asking who was going to work in the store, make his birdseed milkshakes, and tell him stories. And in 1990 when Muppet creator and the force behind the launch of “Sesame Street” Jim Henson died suddenly, it was Spinney as Big Bird who took the stage to sing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” (Kermit’s signature song). Spinney later noted that he didn’t know how he made it through the song and that he was in tears under the costume.

He may be the most unknown famous person in the world, but he was not ignored; Spinney earned four Daytime Emmy Awards for his portrayal as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. He was also awarded the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Spinney was seldom found sans his Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch sidekicks, but he occasionally made an appearance as himself of television including the game shows “To Tell the Truth” and “Hollywood Squares”, “Presenting Susan Anton”, award shows, and documentaries.

Sesame Street” was not the only place where Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch appeared; the duo showed up in over 100 film and television productions including game shows, talk shows, “Sesame Street” related films and television specials, “The Muppet Show”, “The Muppet Movie”, “The Great Muppet Caper”, “Big Bird in China”, “Follow that Bird”, “Big Bird in Japan”, “Shalom Sesame” (the Israeli “Sesame Street”), “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland”, “The West Wing”, “Scrubs”, late night talk shows, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”, “Portlandia”, and “Supernatural”. His final television appearance was on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” as Oscar earlier this year.

He was born Caroll Edwin Spinney on December 26, 1933 in Wiltham, Massachusetts. He got his first puppet – a monkey – when he was eight years old when his mother made him a puppet theater. After high school he joined the Air Force where he spent four years before returning to puppeteering…and television. He spent time on the Massachusetts show “Bozo’s Big Top” with Judy Valentine before moving to Utah and a puppet festival where he met Jim Henson. Henson liked what he saw and asked Spinney to join him on what would become a world wide phenomenon.

He is survived by his second wife of over 40 years Debra, children, and grandchildren.

 

feature photo credit: By Montclair Film Festival – https://www.flickr.com/photos/montclairfilmfest/14112271501/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32610523

 

 

Vanessa Williams Wows Bear’s Den

Like beauty queen and former Miss America turned actress Linda Day George, Vanessa Williams has gone far beyond her days on the stage in a beauty pageant.

The multiple award winning performer and former Miss America returned to western New York, where she has family,for a two night engagement in the Bear’s Den Showroom at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino.

Backed by a full band – one she has had for 22 years – and two backup singers, Williams wowed the nearly packed house of fans with music from her career. Between songs Williams would often stop to talk about the songs and where they cane from. With chart topping singles on several different Billboard charts, film, television, and Broadway; Williams had much to offer. And she threw in a couple of holiday tunes to celebrate the season.

A true artist and star, Williams has not forgotten the lessons taught by her music teacher parents and happily shared the stage with the members of her band and even featured each one of them on one of the songs.

After getting the show started on a high note with “Work to Do”, the night of music continued with “The Right Stuff” and “Running Back”, “Dreamin’”, “Love Is”, the original version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with keyboard player Leo, “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas”, “Sweetest Days”, “Children Will Listen”, “Ho Were You Thinkin’ About”, “Everlasting Love”, “Constantly”, a little “Creole Love Call” from Carmen, “Stormy Weather”, a duet with Shelley on “Losing My Mind”, “What Child is This”, “Oh, How the Years”, and saying she couldn’t leave without doing it “Save the Best for Last”.

The night ended with an encore performance of “Betcha Never”, an upbeat tune that had Williams dancing around the stage.

The crowd filed out after the show but would have rather stayed for more.

Seneca Niagara Tree Lighting

While the temperatures were too cold for the shelter animals from the SPCA to attend, the old and threat of snow did not deter the crowds that filled the walkway between Third and Fourth Streets leading to the recently renovated entry to the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino.

The festivities began with the singing of a couple of Christmas Carols – “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” with Seneca Gaming Corporation CEO and President Holly Gagnon and Advertising and Publicity Manager Nadine DiStefano leading the way. With the singing as a backdrop; Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rex the Buffalo Bandits mascot, Sabertooth the Buffalo Sabers mascot, and a Spiderman ready for the slopes met with fans and posed for photos.

Holly Gagnon and Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino General Manager Pat Bassney greeted the crowd and wished them a Merry Christmas.